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New Mexico Hires Richard Pitino as new Men’s Head Basketball Coach

Richard Pitino didn’t stay unemployed long. Less than 24 hours after being let go by Minnesota, Pitino became the head coach of New Mexico.

New Mexico Hires Richard Pitino

There are other things happening in college basketball besides March Madness. Some schools are conducting business while both the men and women are poised to begin their much anticipated, much-needed tournaments.

On Monday, Minnesota fired men’s head basketball coach Richard Pitino. New Mexico hired him for the same position the next day.

New Mexico’s athletic director, Eddie Nuñez said, “It’s an exciting day for Lobo basketball. We have somebody who I’m very excited about. Richard Pitino being our next men’s basketball coach—I can’t speak more about not just his successes on the court but who he is as a person, his character, his integrity, everything.”

On Feb. 26, Paul Weir was let go by New Mexico. Nuñez was determined to find a coach with class and integrity and Pitino fit the mold in his eyes. There is also the Billy Donovan connection. Nuñez played for Donovan at Florida and Pitino served as an assistant coach for the Gators under Donovan. Donovan also played for Pitino’s father at Providence.

Pitino told the Albuquerque Journal, “I’ve always dreamed of being at a basketball-crazed place, you know? I mean, just growing up at the University of Kentucky and just knowing what a fan base and a home-court advantage cad do—and tradition and history. So it definitely was something that I was excited about.”

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said of the hire, “It took 28 minutes for Richard Pitino to land a very good job, going to New Mexico. Fans in Albuquerque should get excited!”

Richard Pitino

And so the relationship between a good coach and a basketball town with high standards has begun. The length of the contract is six years, but financial terms have not been released by the university yet. Weir was making $775,000 a year with the Lobos. Pitino’s annual salary at Minnesota was $2.1 million, and there is an apparent $1.7 million contract buyout.

Pitino, 38, is the son of the great Rick Pitino who now coaches at Iona. He coached the Golden Gophers to a 141-123 career record while at the helm, reaching two NCAA Tournaments. He also led Minnesota to an NIT championship in 2013-14, his first year with the Golden Gophers.

Before Minnesota, Pitino had an 18-14 record as the head coach of Florida International. He was also an assistant coach at Northeastern, Duquesne, and Louisville under his father before leaving for Donovan’s staff.

Minnesota was ranked as high as 16th in the AP Top 25 this season. The Golden Gophers had big early wins against Big Ten foes Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Purdue—all schools that are a four-seed or better in the NCAA Tournament. After key injuries and a seven-game losing streak to end the year, Pitino’s tenure at Minnesota came to an end.

It’s time for Richard Pitino to don the red blazer.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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